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FMCG: How COVID-19 changed the way brands operate & engage

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This year, despite the pandemic, FMCG brands have seen an amazing response – this even as a majority of online players struggled to deliver during the lockdown. This has served to boost the image of the brands associated as well as lifting consumer confidence.
“People have started to look towards purchasing healthy foods due to immunity-boosting requirements, consumers are more aware and conscious of what they are consuming and thus we have seen an increase in our online sales and queries for our products. Naturally, retail sales have seen a drop as people are choosing to stay home and order online over going out into stores. Though slowly we are seeing retail patterns coming back to normal as lockdowns ease and the fear related to COVID drops around the country,” says Seema Jindal Jajodia, Founder Nourish Organics.
People becoming more health aware during this period as they look more deeply into the nature of products has been great for Nourish Organics and they have been able to capitalize on this by further educating consumers on clean eating and truly healthy foods, allowing them to understand what sets the brand apart in the market.
And other brands are following suit in terms of promoting their products
“As one India’s largest fresh food brand, iD has ceaselessly served its customers through the pandemic. We consider it our social responsibility to do our best to help. Owning the supply chain enabled us to carry on with our operations, even if we had to scale down initially in certain markets due to logistic challenges. Looking back, I see that the last seven months have been truly testing, yet transformative. This phase has helped reinforce iD’s market positioning as a pioneering company that produces and delivers a wide range of 100 percent natural, fresh and preservative free, ready-to-cook (RTC), authentic Indian foods,” explains Musthafa PC, Co-Founder and CEO, iD Fresh Food.
“Zappfresh is a pure play farm to fork consumer meat brand which works directly with farmers. This supply chain helped us sustain difficult times and consumer trust has built further during the pandemic,” adds Deepanshu Manchanda, Co-founder and CEO, ZappFresh speaking on the same lines.
Customer engagement by brands has become deeper and more meaningful, as they are now making a conscious effort to build trust and a sense of community, especially in these challenging times.
Changing Consumer Behaviour
There is a definite change in customer preferences and behaviour. There is a perceptible shift from local, unbranded players to trusted food brands. Customers are increasingly looking for healthy and fresh food options that rank high on convenience and smart packaging.
“Customer trust is another important factor. iD has been making concerted efforts to strengthen customer trust by adhering to the highest safety standards in the global food industry. As a brand, we listen to our customers intently so that we can address their pain points and provide a seamless experience. Customer feedback has been an integral part of our growth. We understand that the pandemic has accentuated the need to promote a sense of wellbeing and community through traditional Indian foods,” states Musthafa PC.
“There are many trends that come and go in the health food market. Currently consumers are looking towards maintaining better health and have started purchasing healthy foods due to immunity-boosting requirements. Nourish Organics is a clean food brand that aims at making healthy eating easier for the urban population through sustainable, organic food with a wide range of wholesome, multi-grain breakfast cereals, nutrient dense cookies, on-the-go snacks, seed and nut combinations and fruit+fibre based health bars. All our ingredients are chosen keeping in mind providing the highest quality of items that are extremely essential to include in each person’s diet,” adds Jajodia.
Technology – A Boon in Troubled Times
With converging technologies like mobile, cloud, analytics, robotics, AI/ML, 4G/5G, and high-speed internet, it has become possible to test several innovative approaches to pandemic response.
“Technology indeed played a vital role, it helped us to work from home, connecting with clients/ customers could have never been easy without Zoom/ Meet video conferencing. In the same way, e-commerce platforms like Bigbasket, Amazon, Grofers and many more, has helped food-related companies like us to survive and continue their sales. Contactless deliveries of essentials and groceries have really helped us continue our sales across all cities. Few logistics partners, like Delhivery, Gati also sustained their supplies across the nation and continued their operation smoothly, by the use of technology,” states Jajodia.
“Convenience of getting the fresh meat delivered at home is a boon in itself, however technology has made the purchase more seamless and consumers want all the products with a touch of a button, we are going to come with more disruptive tech products in the market for a smooth experience,” adds Manchanda.
The role of technology in helping businesses prevail against the myriad challenges posed by COVID-19.
“At iD, technology has been instrumental in helping us maintain agility in meeting variability in consumer demand, while exercising strict quality control and faster speed to market with new launches. The iD Store Finder is a perfect example of how simple technology can create huge impact, especially during a crisis. We launched the iD Store Finder on our website as a response to customer concerns about difficulty in accessing our products in the lockdown. Thanks to technology, with the click of a button, customers had updated information on iD products available at their nearest stores. The ‘Notify Me’ feature, which sent daily SMS alerts of fresh stocks refill, was a huge hit as it helped customers to avoid stepping out of their homes unnecessarily,” explains Musthafa PC.
iD also launched first D2C service in Mumbai during the lockdown, and it was powered by technology and trust. Through iD Trust Shop 2.0, the brand delivered iD products to over 300 apartment complexes in COVID hotspots of Mumbai – without following up on payments. It trusted the customers to make the payment at their convenience – via Google Pay/Paytm and the response was overwhelming, paving the way innovation and growth.
Expectations from the Festive Season
The festive season is usually the time to bond with family and friends. Given the current scenario though, this year the celebrations are likely to be subdued, with people preferring to spend time at home in the company of close family members and select friends. Of course, delectable food will remain fundamental to the festivities.
“At iD, we see this as an opportunity to bring back the joys of cooking traditional Indian foods at home. We expect to see an uptick in the consumer demand for our RTC products – such as iD Vada Batter and Malabar Parota – that are not often made in urban Indian homes,” states Musthafa PC.
“We see people enjoying bar-be-que at home more in the festive season, ready to eat and ready to cook category will see a surge, we also do festive campaigns, launching new range of products for the young/ working class and families,” adds Manchanda.
The Next Big Change
The pandemic has put the spotlight on health and safety, prompting businesses in the food industry to invest in innovation. Evolving consumer preferences are expected to encourage businesses to see the long-term benefits of keeping products fresh with a shorter shelf life.
“The demand for traditional Indian foods that rank high on taste, freshness, health and convenience will continue to grow. We are also seeing a growing demand for immunity-boosting foods, such as curd and coconut water, as well as products that are eco-friendly. The fresh food industry is ripe for disruption. Now is the time for ‘future ready’ disruptors to step up,” states Musthafa PC.
“We expect more stickiness with players like ours, who are standardizing the experience. You will see more consumer brands focusing on e-comm channels,” adds Manchanda.
The organic market is still at a nascent stage, but with every passing day it is gaining popularity and is becoming an integral part of urban living. Today’s consumer pays attention to reading the ingredient list and nutritional table that helps them choose true health correctly. A lot of people are choosing vegan and gluten free diets.
“At Nourish Organics we are constantly striving to break common misconceptions about healthy eating and to educate our consumer to choose better and cater to their needs. The brand aims at making healthy eating easier for the urban population. Lately, there has also been an expansion in wellbeing worries among Indian purchasers. They have begun offering significance to the supplement content and the nature of the nourishment they consume, subsequently bringing about an expansion in the utilization of natural sustenance,” concludes Jajodia.

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